If you ever see something glinting on a flower, look more closely – it might be a Neon Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus nitidulus). It’s hard to capture its appearance in a photograph, even with a bit of post-processing. In reality, the effect in direct sunlight is more like a small string of electric-blue neon lights, as its name suggests.
That neon glint is caused by patches of iridescent blue hairs on the bee’s body and legs. Here’s a close-up, this time without the direct sunlight:
This neon cuckoo bee was the second type of cuckoo bee to visit us this year. It is smaller than its cousin, the domino cuckoo bee, and is a nest parasite of the blue-banded bee rather than the teddy-bear bee. Otherwise, the appearance and habits of both cuckoo bees are very similar. Their tapering abdomens are common to all the Australian cuckoo bees.
The white spots on this bee's head and thorax are just pollen granules, dislodged by brushing against the overarching stamens of the rosemary. You can see the spots more clearly in this next photo:
Although this neon cuckoo bee visited our rosemary bush several times, it seemed quite shy, taking off as soon as I started taking photos. It’s certainly a striking member of the bee family.
North Sydney – my home suburb – holds Sydney’s second largest CBD. However its parks and bushland areas, and those of neighbouring councils such as Willoughby, host a surprising variety of native flora and fauna. These bush areas are maintained by dedicated council staff, often working with local resident volunteers.